Analysis: The UN moves closer to a global deal on climate change

Photo credit: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

The 195 member countries of the UN have moved closer to a collective agreement and global deal on climate change.


The deal, which was signed by all countries at the two week COP20 summit in Lima, Peru encourages all countries to set out their climate goals, also known as their intentional national determined contributions (INDCs), by end of March 2015.


The deal was described as ‘weak’ by environmental NGO’s and several developing countries who were keen to see a stronger commitment from developed countries. However, most developed countries insist that a big step towards securing a viable deal in Paris deal has been taken.


The accord ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ does not yet include any targets or legally binding agreements; instead it focuses on voluntary targets and a recommendation that a legal text must be formulated by members no later than May 2015. The text also argues that each country, regardless of GDP or size, must commit to some emission reduction targets.


The Lima conference showed that there is still a huge split between the developing and the developed world. It is commonly argued that the developed world, which accounts for the largest amount of emissions, should have legally binding targets whereas the developing world should have voluntary targets. But that would be hard to achieve with two of the world’s three largest current CO2 emitters classified as ‘developing’; China at number one and India at number three.


Financing the developing world to deal with both the impacts of climate change and investment in low carbon technologies is also one of the divisive points. At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, it was agreed that the developed world should provide $100 billion by 2020 to the Green Climate Fund which would finance both adaptation and mitigation projects in the developing world. Leading up to and during the Lima conference, $10 billion was pledged, but $90 billion still remains to be pledged; this could be one of the main obstacles to agreeing a successful climate treaty in 2015.


Another potential obstacle is the Loss and Damage mechanism, in which developed countries pay developing countries the economic cost for the impacts of climate change. The Lima accord says that this concept still needs exploring, however it is uncertain that it would be possible to implement it in a global agreement, as countries rarely agree on how to identify a direct impact of climate change.

Ultimately, the Lima conference was never intended to do more than to move the world closer towards a 2015 Paris deal; some argue this has been achieved and others that the differences between countries are still too significant. However, how countries rally in the 12 months ahead is absolutely key, in particular around the INDC deadline in March, the draft legal text deadline in May and the climate summit in Bonn in June. How these three milestones and events pan out will fundamentally determine both whether and what type of global deal we could be looking at in 2015.  

Related news:

Once again extreme weather events draw headlines during international climate talks

Editorial: Why Lima matters

Lima climate talks begin as countries eye building momentum

Canadian journalist recalls his UN climate talks experience

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